The Mysterious Ball and other 3D "Jigsaws"

Dissected Maps and Jigsaws were invented in the second half of the 18th Century but it is not certain when the first 3D jigsaws were made. The invention of the bandsaw in 1808 by William Newberry must have made their production practicable at a fairly early date however there is as yet no certain information.

The square block on the right, the centre piece of which is an elegant Rococo table, is inscribed "Sawn out of a solid block of wood with the bandsaw. At the 1867 Exhibition". (These blocks can still be found in antique markets without anyone realizing how old they may be.)

We have another of these tables in its original box made by John McDowall & Sons of Johnstone near Glasgow for the International Forestry Exhibition in Edinburgh 1884.

The ball opposite and the fragment of the instruction sheet below it show that these balls were made at the Wolverhampton Art and Industrial Exhibition by R.Grigor using a Robinson bandsaw.

Robinsons were established in 1838 and there were Exhibitions in Wolverhampton in 1869 and 1902.

The ball was almost certainly made at the later 1902 Exhibition because in 1907 we find Mr Grigor at work in Dublin at The Irish International Exhibition. This time he is using a machine made by W.B.Haigh of Oldham.


We are not certain when "Bristol International Exhibition", referred to opposite, was held.


Correspondence between James Dalgety and Thomas Robinson & Son Ltd. in the 1970s suggests that spherical puzzles were certainly not cut by them for demonstration purposes any later than the 1920s.

However as late as the 1971 Robinsons were still cutting 500 to 1000 Eiffel Towers at every Woodworking Exhibition to demonstrate their bandsaws - This was something they started at the 1889 Paris Exposition. We have one but where have all the rest gone? It should be observed that the model of the Eiffel Tower was the intended end product on its own. It was only the occasional dedicated metagrobologist who would have demanded the off-cuts to use it as "a puzzle".

Other well known 3D shapes either used to demonstrate bandsaws or just for sale as toys, include Rocking Chairs, Nests of Tables, and complete sets of Doll's House furniture.


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